A recent newspaper report describes how a government strategy meant to combat illegal logging in Brazil -- via the creation of special zones where private companies can harvest wood on protected land -- is falling short.
As reported by Folha, since 2006, the Brazilian government has allowed private companies to sustainably harvest tropical wood within select areas of Brazil's National Forests. This policy was intended to discourage illegal loggers from operating in these concession zones.
However, the report states that the market for sustainably harvested wood in Brazil is still minuscule -- most of this timber ends up exported to Europe. One Brazilian logging company estimates that over 70 percent of the timber traded within Brazil was harvested illegally. This timber is either given a fake certification of legality, or is sold in an informal market where no one checks the requisite documents.
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Thus far, the government's creation of these concession zones has failed to make the legal, sustainably-harvested timber market more attractive than the illegal market, the Folha report suggests. Tropical wood typically sells for about 150 Brazilian reales (about $39) for every cubic meter, versus 70 reales (about $18) for wood grown on plantations.
Nevertheless, by 2022, the Brazilian government wants 40 percent of all timber production in the Amazon to come from private concessions in National Forests. Currently, that number stands at one percent, according to Folha.
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Timber trafficking is known to fuel violence and crime in Brazil -- hundreds of environmental activists have been killed in the country, with many cases linked to illegal logging. While deforestation rates overall are going down in Brazil, illegal logging is still responsible for much of the problem, alongside mining and ranching.
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Brazil has taken other steps to combat illegal logging, including creating a new special security force unit earlier this year, as well as employing the use of drones. However, one implication of Folha's report is that Brazil could do more to scrutinize the origins of its wood, given how common it is for traffickers to fake the requisite certification. As exposed in a 2014 report by Greenpeace, Brazil's illegally logged timber is often "laundered" in various ways -- including the creation of fake documents.